Where Wild Horses Run by G. Graham
Graham, Georgia. Where Wild Horses Run. Markham, ON., Red Deer Press, 2011. Print.
Georgia Graham has written four books and illustrated fourteen. In this picture book she captures the beauty of the wild horses of the Nemaiah Valley in British Columbia through the story of a new foal. While she both wrote and illustrated this work, her strength is clearly in illustration. Using chalk pastels and chalk pencils on sanded pastel paper, Graham creates realistic images of both the horses and the landscapes. Her crouched cougar image is very well executed.
The unusual layout of the images is eye-catching and allows Graham to vary the emphasis between the text and images. The book is in landscape format, allowing images to flow over two pages. Sometimes one image will fill two pages, with text bars at the top. Sometimes, an image will take up the top of a two page spread, with another image below and a third integrated into the text on the remaining white space.
While the book is attractive and enjoyable, there are some shortcomings. The drawings of the horses are inconsistent in their detail and sometimes in their proportions. In two images of the foal, its legs seem disproportionately large. Some of the horses’ manes seem to be permanently flying in the wind. In an image of two stallions fighting, parts of their manes seem to move independently, like Medusa’s snakes. While the artist is probably attempting to show agitation in the horses, the manes are quite unnatural. The Golden Stallion is also depicted with his ribs showing prominently, which would normally indicate that the animal is underfed, however, the rest of his body and those of the other horses appear to be in good condition.
The text is quite simple, generally well-written and is appropriate for the intended upper elementary audience. However, the story line takes an unnatural twist at the end. The new foal has played with a grey colt, whom the Golden Stallion drives out of the band. This is normal behavior. When a cougar threatens the foal, the grey colt appears from nowhere, in an implied act of friendship, to protect the foal. It is not realistic that a colt that has been banished from a band would interfere with a foal while the stallion is nearby. It is much more likely that a mare, and particularly the lead mare, would chase away a cougar. This unnecessary bit of anthropomorphizing detracts from the otherwise realistic portrayal of the animals in the text and images.
In spite of the flaws, this is still a good book from a rising Alberta author and illustrator, which should be included in library collections.
Recommended: 3 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Sandy Campbell